Colony of Jamaica

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Jamaica and Dependencies
Colony of England (1655–1707)
Colony of Great Britain (1707–1801)
Colony of the United Kingdom (1801–1962)

 

 

 

1655–1962
Flag Badge
Motto
Indus Uterque Serviet Uni
"The two Indians will serve as one"
Anthem
God Save the King/Queen
Location of Jamaica in 1962
Capital Port Royal
(1655–1692)
Spanish Town
(1692–1872)
Kingston
(1872–1962)
Languages English, Jamaican Patois, Spanish
Religion Christianity , Judaism, Islam, Bedwardism, Rastafari movement
Government Constitutional monarchy
Head of State
 -  1655–1658 Oliver Cromwell
 -  1952–1962 Elizabeth II
Governor
 -  1655 William Penn
 -  1957–1962 Kenneth Blackburne
Chief Minister
 -  1953–1955 Alexander Bustamante
 -  1955–1962 Norman Manley
Legislature Parliament
 -  Upper house Legislative Council
 -  Lower house House of Representatives
History
 -  Established 10 May 1655
 -  Attachment of
Bay Islands
British Honduras
Cayman Islands
Turks and Caicos

15 June 1852
1742
18 July 1670
4 April 1873
 -  Detachment of
Bay Islands
British Honduras
Cayman Islands
Turks and Caicos

14 July 1860
2 October 1884
4 July 1959
4 July 1959
 -  Independence 6 August 1962
Area
 -  1943[1] 12,114 km² (4,677 sq mi)
Population
 -  1943[1] est. 1,249,900 
     Density 103.2 /km²  (267.2 /sq mi)
 -  1956[2] est. 1,577,410 
     Density 130.2 /km²  (337.3 /sq mi)
Currency Spanish dollar
(1655–1840)
Jamaican pound
(1840–1962)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Spanish Jamaica
Spanish West Indies
Captaincy General of Guatemala
Turks and Caicos Islands
Jamaica
Cayman Islands
Bay Islands
British Honduras
Turks and Caicos Islands
Today part of  Belize
 Cayman Islands
 Honduras
 Jamaica
 Turks and Caicos Islands

Jamaica was a British colony from 1655 (when it was captured by the English from Spain) or 1670 (when Spain formally ceded Jamaica to the British) until 1962, when it became independent. Jamaica became a crown colony in 1866.

History[edit]

An English naval force sent by Oliver Cromwell attacked the island in 1655, forcing the small group of Spanish defenders to capitulate in May of that year. Within 3 years, the English had occupied the island, whose population was only about 3,000, but it took them many years to bring the rebellious slaves under their control.

Cromwell increased the island's white population by sending indentured servants and prisoners captured in battles with the Irish and Scots, as well as some common criminals. This practice was continued under Charles II, and the white population was also augmented by immigrants from the North American mainland and other islands, as well as by the English buccaneers. But tropical diseases kept the number of whites well under 10,000 until about 1740.

Although the slave population in the 1670s and 1680s never exceeded roughly 9,500, by the end of the seventeenth century imports of slaves increased the black population to at least five times the number of whites. Thereafter, Jamaica's blacks did not increase significantly in number until well into the eighteenth century, in part because the slave ships coming from the west coast of Africa preferred to unload at the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the number of slaves in Jamaica did not exceed 45,000, but by 1800 it had increased to over 300,000.

Beginning with the Stuart monarchy's appointment of a civil governor to Jamaica in 1661, political patterns were established that lasted well into the twentieth century. The second governor, Lord Windsor, brought with him in 1662 a proclamation from the king giving Jamaica's non-slave populace the rights of English citizens, including the right to make their own laws. Although he spent only ten weeks in Jamaica, Lord Windsor laid the foundations of a governing system that was to last for two centuries: a crown-appointed governor acting with the advice of a nominated council in the legislature. The legislature consisted of the governor and an elected but highly unrepresentative House of Assembly.

England gained formal possession of Jamaica from Spain in 1670 through the Treaty of Madrid. Removing the pressing need for constant defense against Spanish attack, this change served as an incentive to planting. For years, however, the planter-dominated Jamaica House of Assembly was in continual conflict with the various governors and the Stuart kings; there were also contentious factions within the assembly itself. For much of the 1670s and 1680s, Charles II and James II and the assembly feuded over such matters as the purchase of slaves from ships not run by the royal English trading company. The last Stuart governor, the Duke of Albemarle, who was more interested in treasure hunting than in planting, turned the planter oligarchy out of office. After the duke's death in 1688, the planters, who had fled Jamaica to London, succeeded in lobbying James II to order a return to the pre-Albemarle political arrangement and the revolution that brought William III and Mary to the throne in 1689 confirmed the local control of Jamaican planters belonging to the assembly. This settlement also improved the supply of slaves and resulted in more protection, including military support, for the planters against foreign competition. This was of particular importance during the Anglo-French War in the Caribbean from 1689 to 1713.

Early in the eighteenth century, the Maroons took a heavy toll on the British troops and local militia sent against them in the interior; their rebellion ended, however, with the signing of peace agreements in 1738. The sugar monoculture and slave-worked plantation society Jamaica throughout the eighteenth century. With the abolition of the slave trade in 1808 and slavery itself in 1834, however, the island's sugar- and slave-based economy faltered. The period after emancipation in 1834 initially was marked by a conflict between the plantocracy and elements in the Colonial Office over the extent to which individual freedom should be coupled with political participation for blacks. In 1840 the assembly changed the voting qualifications in a way that enabled a majority of blacks and people of mixed race (browns or mulattos) to vote. But neither change in the political system, nor abolition of slavery changed the planter's chief interest, which lay in the continued profitability of their estates, and they continued to dominate the elitist assembly. Nevertheless, at the end of the eighteenth century and in the early years of the nineteenth century, the crown began to allow some Jamaicans – mostly local merchants, urban professionals, and artisans—into the appointed councils.

In 1846 Jamaican planters, still reeling from the loss of slave labour, suffered a crushing blow when Britain passed the Sugar Duties Act, eliminating Jamaica's traditionally favoured status as its primary supplier of sugar. The Jamaica House of Assembly stumbled from one crisis to another until the collapse of the sugar trade, when racial and religious tensions came to a head during the Morant Bay rebellion of 1865. Although suppressed ruthlessly, the severe rioting so alarmed the planters that the two-centuries-old assembly voted to abolish itself and asked for the establishment of direct British rule.

In 1866 the new crown colony government consisted of the Legislative Council and the executive Privy Council containing members of both chambers of the House of Assembly, but the Colonial Office exercised effective power through a presiding British governor. The council included a few handpicked prominent Jamaicans for the sake of appearance only. In the late nineteenth century, crown colony rule was modified; representation and limited self-rule were reintroduced gradually into Jamaica after 1884. The colony's legal structure was reformed along the lines of English common law and county courts, and a constabulary force was established.

The smooth working of the crown colony system was dependent on a good understanding and an identity of interests between the governing officials, who were British, and most of the nonofficial, nominated members of the Legislative Council, who were Jamaicans. The elected members of this body were in a permanent minority and without any influence or administrative power. The unstated alliance – based on shared color, attitudes, and interest – between the British officials and the Jamaican upper class was reinforced in London, where the West India Committee lobbied for Jamaican interests. Jamaica's white or near-white propertied class continued to hold the dominant position in every respect; the vast majority of the black population remained poor and unenfranchised.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black activist and Trade Unionist, founded one of Jamaica's first political parties in 1929 and a workers association in the early 1930s. The Ras Tafari brotherhood (commonly called the Rastafarians), which in 1935 hailed Ethiopia's emperor Haile Selassie as its god (Jah), owed its origins to the cultivation of self-confidence and black pride promoted by Garvey and his black nationalist movement. Garvey, a controversial figure, had been the target of a four-year investigation by the United States government. He was convicted of mail fraud in 1923 and had served most of a five-year term in an Atlanta penitentiary when he was deported to Jamaica in 1927. Garvey left the colony in 1935 to live in the United Kingdom, where he died heavily in debt five years later. He was proclaimed Jamaica's first national hero in the 1960s after Edward P.G. Seaga, then a government minister, arranged the return of his remains to Jamaica. In 1987 Jamaica petitioned the United States Congress to pardon Garvey on the basis that the federal charges brought against him were unsubstantiated and unjust.

Dissatisfaction with crown colony rule reached its peak during the period between the world wars, as demands for responsible self-government grew. A growing mulatto middle-class with increasingly impressive education, ability, and even property identified with British social and political standards, but white Jamaicans were beginning to feel offended by a perceived British indifference to their economic difficulties and political opinions. They also resented British monopoly of high positions and the many limitations on their own mobility in the colonial civil service, especially if they were of mixed race.

The rise of nationalism, as distinct from island identification or desire for self-determination, is generally dated to the 1938 labour riots that affected both Jamaica and the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. William Alexander Bustamante, a moneylender in the capital city of Kingston who had formed the Jamaica Trade Workers and Tradesmen Union (JTWTU) three years earlier, captured the imagination of the black masses with his messianic personality, even though he himself was light-skinned, affluent, and aristocratic. Bustamante emerged from the 1938 strikes and other disturbances as a populist leader and the principal spokesperson for the militant urban working class, and in that year, using the JTWTU as a stepping stone, he founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), which inaugurated Jamaica's workers movement.

A distant cousin of Bustamante's, Norman W. Manley, concluded as a result of the 1938 riots that the real basis for national unity in Jamaica lay in the masses. Unlike the union-oriented Bustamante, however, Manley was more interested in access to control over state power and political rights for the masses. On 18 September 1938, he inaugurated the People's National Party (PNP), which had begun as a nationalist movement supported by the mixed-race middle class and the liberal sector of the business community with leaders who were highly educated members of the upper middle class. The 1938 riots spurred the PNP to unionise labour, although it would be several years before the PNP formed major labour unions. The party concentrated its earliest efforts on establishing a network both in urban areas and in banana-growing rural parishes, later working on building support among small farmers and in areas of bauxite mining.

The PNP adopted a socialist ideology in 1940 and later joined the Socialist International, allying itself formally with the social democratic parties of Western Europe. Guided by socialist principles, Manley was not a doctrinaire socialist. PNP socialism during the 1940s was similar to British Labour Party ideas on state control of the factors of production, equality of opportunity, and a welfare state, although a left-wing element in the PNP held more orthodox Marxist views and worked for the internationalisation of the trade union movement through the Caribbean Labour Congress. In those formative years of Jamaican political and union activity, relations between Manley and Bustamante were cordial. Manley defended Bustamante in court against charges brought by the British for his labour activism in the 1938 riots and looked after the BITU during Bustamante's imprisonment.

Bustamante had political ambitions of his own, however. In 1942, while still incarcerated, he founded a political party to rival the PNP, called the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The new party, whose leaders were of a lower class than those of the PNP, was supported by conservative businessmen and 60,000 dues-paying BITU members, who encompassed dock and sugar plantation workers and other unskilled urban labourers. On his release in 1943, Bustamante began building up the JLP. Meanwhile, several PNP leaders organised the leftist-oriented Trade Union Congress (TUC). Thus, from an early stage in modern Jamaica, unionised labour was an integral part of organised political life.

For the next quarter century, Bustamante and Manley competed for centre stage in Jamaican political affairs, the former espousing the cause of the "barefoot man"; the latter, "democratic socialism," a loosely defined political and economic theory aimed at achieving a classless system of government. Jamaica's two founding fathers projected quite different popular images. Bustamante, lacking even a high school diploma, was an autocratic, charismatic, and highly adept politician; Manley was an athletic, Oxford-trained lawyer, Rhodes scholar, humanist, and liberal intellectual. Although considerably more reserved than Bustamante, Manley was well liked and widely respected. He was also a visionary nationalist who became the driving force behind the crown colony's quest for independence.

Following the 1938 disturbances in the West Indies, London sent the Moyne Commission to study conditions in the British Caribbean territories. Its findings led in the early 1940s to better wages and a new constitution. Issued on 20 November 1944, the Constitution modified the crown colony system and inaugurated limited self-government based on the Westminster model of government and universal adult suffrage. It also embodied the island's principles of ministerial responsibility and the rule of law. Thirty-one percent of the population participated in the 1944 elections. The JPL – helped by its promises to create jobs, its practice of dispensing public funds in pro-JLP parishes, and the PNP's relatively radical platform – won an 18 percent majority of the votes over the PNP, as well as 22 seats in the 32-member House of Representatives, with 5 going to the PNP and 5 to other short-lived parties. In 1945 Bustamante took office as Jamaica's first premier (the pre-independence title for head of government).

Under the new charter, the British governor, assisted by the six-member Privy Council and ten-member Executive Council, remained responsible solely to the crown. The Jamaican Legislative Council became the upper house, or Senate, of the bicameral Parliament. House members were elected by adult suffrage from single-member electoral districts called constituencies. Despite these changes, ultimate power remained concentrated in the hands of the governor and other high officials.

After World War II, Jamaica began a relatively long transition to full political independence. Jamaicans preferred British culture over American, but they had a love-hate relationship with the British and resented British domination, racism, and the dictatorial Colonial Office. Britain gradually granted the colony more self-government under periodic constitutional changes. Jamaica's political patterns and governmental structure were shaped during two decades of what was called "constitutional decolonisation," the period between 1944 and independence in 1962.

Having seen how little popular appeal the PNP's 1944 campaign position had, the party shifted toward the centre in 1949 and remained there until 1974. The PNP actually won a 0.8-percent majority of the votes over the JLP in the 1949 election, although the JLP won a majority of the House seats. In the 1950s, the PNP and JLP became increasingly similar in their sociological composition and ideological outlook. During the cold war years, socialism became an explosive domestic issue. The JLP exploited it among property owners and churchgoers, attracting more middle-class support. As a result, PNP leaders diluted their socialist rhetoric, and in 1952 the PNP moderated its image by expelling four prominent leftists who had controlled the TUC. The PNP then formed the more conservative National Workers Union (NWU). Henceforth, PNP socialism meant little more than national planning within a framework of private property and foreign capital. The PNP retained, however, a basic commitment to socialist precepts, such as public control of resources and a more equitable income distribution. Manley's PNP came to office for the first time after winning the 1955 elections with an 11-percent majority over the JLP and 50.5 percent of the popular vote.

Amendments to the constitution that took effect in May 1953 reconstituted the Executive Council and provided for eight ministers to be selected from among House members. The first ministries were subsequently established. These amendments also enlarged the limited powers of the House of Representatives and made elected members of the governor's executive council responsible to the legislature. Manley, elected chief minister beginning in January 1955, accelerated the process of decolonisation during his able stewardship. Further progress toward self-government was achieved under constitutional amendments in 1955 and 1956, and cabinet government was established on 11 November 1957.

Assured by British declarations that independence would be granted to a collective West Indian state rather than to individual colonies, Manley supported Jamaica's joining nine other British territories in the West Indies Federation, established on 3 January 1958. Manley became the island's premier after the PNP again won a decisive victory in the general election in July 1959, securing thirty of forty-five House seats.

Membership in the federation remained an issue in Jamaican politics. Bustamante, reversing his previously supportive position on the issue, warned of the financial implications of membership – Jamaica was responsible for 43 percent of its own financing – and an inequity in Jamaica's proportional representation in the federation's House of Assembly. Manley's PNP favoured staying in the federation, but he agreed to hold a referendum in September 1961 to decide on the issue. When 54 percent of the electorate voted to withdraw, Jamaica left the federation, which dissolved in 1962 after Trinidad and Tobago also pulled out. Manley believed that the rejection of his pro-federation policy in the 1961 referendum called for a renewed mandate from the electorate, but the JLP won the election of early 1962 by a fraction. Bustamante assumed the premiership that April, and Manley spent his remaining few years in politics as leader of the opposition.

Jamaica received its independence on 6 August 1962. The new nation retained, however, its membership in the Commonwealth of Nations and adopted a Westminster style parliamentary system. Bustamante, at age seventy-eight, became the new nation's first prime minister and also assumed responsibility for the new ministries of defence and foreign affairs. Jamaicans welcomed independence, but they had already spent their nationalistic passion over the emotional issue of federation. The general feeling was that independence would not make much difference in their lives.

Economy[edit]

The first European settlers, the Spanish, were primarily interested in extracting precious metals and did not develop or otherwise transform Jamaica. In 1655 the English occupied the island and began a slow process of creating an agricultural economy based on slave labour in support of England's industrial revolution. During the seventeenth century, the basic patterns and social system of the sugar plantation economy were established in Jamaica. Large estates owned by absentee planters were managed by local agents. The slave population increased rapidly during the last quarter of the seventeenth century and, by the end of the century, slaves outnumbered white Europeans by at least five to one. Because conditions were extremely harsh under the slave regime and the mortality rate for slaves was high, the slave population expanded through the slave trade from West Africa rather than by natural increase.

During most of the eighteenth century, a monocrop economy based on sugar production for export flourished. In the last quarter of the century, however, the Jamaican sugar economy declined as famines, hurricanes, colonial wars, and wars of independence disrupted trade. By the 1820s, Jamaican sugar had become less competitive with that from high-volume producers such as Cuba and production subsequently declined. By 1882 sugar output was less than half the level achieved in 1828. A major reason for the decline was the British Parliament's 1807 abolition of the slave trade, under which the transportation of slaves to Jamaica after 1 March 1808 was forbidden; the abolition of the slave trade was followed by the abolition of slavery in 1834 and full emancipation within four years. Unable to convert the ex-slaves into a share-cropping tenant class similar to the one established in the post-Civil War South of the United States, planters became increasingly dependent on wage labour and began recruiting workers abroad, primarily from India, China, and Sierra Leone. Many of the former slaves settled in peasant or small farm communities in the interior of the island, the "yam belt," where they engaged in subsistence and some cash crop farming.

The second half of the nineteenth century was a period of severe economic decline for Jamaica. Low crop prices, droughts, and disease led to serious social unrest, culminating in the Morant Bay rebellions of 1865. However, renewed British administration after the 1865 rebellion, in the form of crown colony status, resulted in some social and economic progress as well as investment in the physical infrastructure. Agricultural development was the centrepiece of restored British rule in Jamaica. In 1868 the first large-scale irrigation project was launched. In 1895 the Jamaica Agricultural Society was founded to promote more scientific and profitable methods of farming. Also in the 1890s, the Crown Lands Settlement Scheme was introduced, a land reform program of sorts, which allowed small farmers to purchase two hectares or more of land on favourable terms.

Between 1865 and 1930, the character of landholding in Jamaica changed substantially, as sugar declined in importance. As many former plantations went bankrupt, some land was sold to Jamaican peasants under the Crown Lands Settlement whereas other cane fields were consolidated by dominant British producers, most notably by the British firm Tate and Lyle. Although the concentration of land and wealth in Jamaica was not as drastic as in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, by the 1920s the typical sugar plantation on the island had increased to an average of 266 hectares. But, as noted, smallscale agriculture in Jamaica survived the consolidation of land by sugar powers. The number of small holdings in fact tripled between 1865 and 1930, thus retaining a large portion of the population as peasantry. Most of the expansion in small holdings took place before 1910, with farms averaging between two and twenty hectares.

The rise of the banana trade during the second half of the nineteenth century also changed production and trade patterns on the island. Bananas were first exported in 1867, and banana farming grew rapidly thereafter. By 1890, bananas had replaced sugar as Jamaica's principal export. Production rose from 5 million stems (32 percent of exports) in 1897 to an average of 20 million stems a year in the 1920s and 1930s, or over half of domestic exports. As with sugar, the presence of American companies, like the well-known United Fruit Company in Jamaica, was a driving force behind renewed agricultural exports. The British also became more interested in Jamaican bananas than in the country's sugar. Expansion of banana production, however, was hampered by serious labour shortages. The rise of the banana economy took place amidst a general exodus of up to 11,000 Jamaicans a year.

The Great Depression caused sugar prices to slump in 1929 and led to the return of many Jamaicans. Economic stagnation, discontent with unemployment, low wages, high prices, and poor living conditions caused social unrest in the 1930s. Uprisings in Jamaica began on the Frome Sugar Estate in the western parish of Westmoreland and quickly spread east to Kingston. Jamaica, in particular, set the pace for the region in its demands for economic development from British colonial rule.

Because of disturbances in Jamaica and the rest of the region, the British in 1938 appointed the Moyne Commission. An immediate result of the Commission was the Colonial Development Welfare Act, which provided for the expenditure of approximately Ł1 million a year for twenty years on coordinated development in the British West Indies. Concrete actions, however, were not implemented to deal with Jamaica's massive structural problems.

The expanding relationship that Jamaica entered into with the United States during World War II produced a momentum for change that could not be turned back by the end of the war. Familiarity with the early economic progress achieved in Puerto Rico under Operation Bootstrap, renewed immigration to the United States, the lasting impressions of Marcus Garvey, and the publication of the Moyne Commission Report led to important modifications in the Jamaican political process and demands for economic development. As was the case throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean in the mid- to late 1930s, social upheaval in Jamaica paved the way for the emergence of strong trade unions and nascent political parties. These changes set the stage for early modernisation in the 1940s and 1950s and for limited self-rule, introduced in 1944.

An extensive period of postwar growth transformed Jamaica into an increasingly industrial society. This pattern was accelerated with the export of bauxite beginning in the 1950s. The economic structure shifted from a dependence on agriculture that in 1950 accounted for 30.8 percent of GDP to an agricultural contribution of 12.9 percent in 1960 and 6.7 percent in 1970. During the same period, the contribution to GDP of mining increased from less than 1 percent in 1950 to 9.3 percent in 1960 and 12.6 percent in 1970. Manufacturing expanded from 11.3 percent in 1950 to 12.8 in 1960 and 15.7 in 1970.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Coordinates: 17°59′00″N 76°48′00″W / 17.9833°N 76.8000°W / 17.9833; -76.8000